Welcome New Riders

So you just got a new (or new to you) bike. Whether this is your first time on a bike or you are getting back after a long hiatus, let me say . . . Welcome!

After 24 years riding with, and 22 years married to, the Bike Guy, I can’t claim to be a new rider. But I remember well how intimidating it was when I started, and every time I tried a new cycling discipline (note: road riding is not the same as mountain biking).

With that in mind, I wanted to share some advice and resources to help take the edge off:

Wear a (new) helmet
Massachusetts state law mandates anyone under the age of 16 must wear a helmet, but we suggest everyone join the fun. I know, I know, we didn’t wear helmets when we were kids, and we turned out fine, right? But we also didn’t wear seatbelts, and most of us have accepted that’s a good idea, and so are helmets.

While “a” helmet is better than no helmet, you want to replace your helmet every few years as the plastic can become brittle and the foam can degrade. Helmets released most recently also incorporate new technology that claims to help prevent concussions.

Wear what you want
Seriously. You will see lots of flashy kits (that’s what cyclists call the jersey and short combination) and may hear strong opinions about proper sock length. Wear what works for you, but perhaps consider adding a pair of padded shorts. We promise you will thank us later.

Know the rules
For those riding on the road, there are quite a few rules you should be aware of, as well as your rights as a cyclist. You can check out a comprehensive list on MassBike.org.

But rules aren’t just for the road. Those hitting the trials for the first time should become familiar with trail etiquette – including yielding to non-riders, and to riders heading uphill. There are lots of guides available online, including this one from SingleTracks.com.

Be prepared
Follow the Girl Scout motto “Be Prepared” before heading out on your bike. For me, that means not just carrying the tools I need to fix a flat or make minor repairs, but also knowing how to use them (fixing my first flat was a huge accomplishment!). Again, there are lots of videos available online.

In addition to tools, I also bring first aid supplies, money, and a copy of my ID and insurance card. During the summer I don’t bother taking off my Road ID which tells people who to contact should I be found unconscious (not to scare anyone!).

Find new places to ride
While some are happy to head out on their bike without a plan, others including myself, like to have an idea where they are going and how they will get home. Ride with GPS and TrailForks are two great resources for when you are ready to roam, but with a plan.

Join the community
While we hope to be riding with friends again soon, it will likely be a long time before we can connect with the larger cycling community in-person. But that doesn’t mean you can’t join the conversation now by joining advocacy groups, trail building groups, and user groups (Facebook has a ton of them). Joining virtually will allow you to listen in to the conversation, learn about issues and concerns, get advice, and make friends!

Here are some to get you started:

Ask questions
I know you have them because I did (and still do). Beyond going online, you can usually find cyclists gathered near local bike shops, local coffee shops, and local ice cream parlors, and local breweries (do you sense a theme?). Post-ride is a great time to ask riders about routes, equipment, whatever – most cyclists we know will happily take time to help.

 About the author
As Steve’s “not so silent partner,” Kristin Brandt provides strategic marketing support to the Bike Guy, allowing her to combine her professional experience as owner of Sundin Associates and Sundin Sports Marketing with her love of cycling.

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